WESTFIELD, NJ — A 24-year-old four-time All-American from Rutgers and the 2019 college national champion in the 149-pound division inspired an audience this week at Addams Tavern.

Anthony Ashnault shared thoughts on his remarkable career with members of the Westfield Rotary Club Tuesday. A New Jersey high school legend, Ashnault became the first four-time undefeated state champion with a perfect 170-0 record while wrestling for South Plainfield. It is not the first time Ashnault has spoken to the Rotary.

Why was Ashnault invited back?

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“Plain and simple — he is a New Jersey icon,” said Anthony LaPorta, a Rotary member who arranges speakers for the club. “Everyone was very impressed the way he spoke. He is poised beyond his years. He motivated the audience and was asked to be brought back by popular demand.”

Ashnault didn’t disappoint, telling how much he has valued his wrestling journey, pinpointing experiences that have taught him so much about not only the sport he loves, but his life as well.

He talked about the discipline, hard work and teamwork required to be a wrestler. Ashnault  stressed the importance of the connection between his mind and body and what it means to be singularly focused in on a goal, especially in a sport like wrestling, where one errant move can be the difference between winning and losing.

With his collegiate wrestling career complete, Ashnault is a graduate student at Rutgers studying business and sharing his passion for the sport, coaching youth wrestling. Still, he remains fiercely focused on going to Tokyo, Japan this summer to compete in the Olympics. Having represented the country in international meets before, he’s had a taste of what an Olympian experience would mean.

He injured his knee in May in a finals match to wrestle on the world team. The injury required surgery and an intense rehabilitation. He’s been ramping up his training for an important qualifier on Dec. 20 in Fort Worth, Texas, that is critically important in the selection process.

“My main focus is to really accomplish my full athletic ability,” Ashnault said. “If that’s making the Olympics and winning then that’s the goal. If it doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t happen. I just want to put my full energy into it. I learned up to this point that the journey is has been way more rewarding then the destination has been. I’m all in on the Olympic journey.”

A frequent contributor to TAPinto Westfield, Mike Cohen is the founder and director of Throwback Sports (a sports and educational program for people of all abilities) and the sports editor of Education Update. He can be reached at throwbacksports@verizon.net.